The World Health Organization has warned that, despite strong hopes for a vaccine, there might never be a “silver bullet” for COVID-19, and the road to normality would be long.
More than 18.14 million people around the world are reported to have been infected with the disease and 688,080 have died, according to a Reuters tally, with some nations that thought they were over the worst experiencing a resurgence.
WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and WHO emergencies head Mike Ryan exhorted all nations to rigorously enforce health measures such as mask-wearing, social distancing, hand-washing and testing.
“The message to people and governments is clear: ‘Do it all’,” Tedros told a virtual news briefing from the UN body’s headquarters in Geneva. He said face masks should become a symbol of solidarity round the world.
“A number of vaccines are now in phase three clinical trials and we all hope to have a number of effective vaccines that can help prevent people from infection. However, there’s no silver bullet at the moment – and there might never be,” he added.
Ryan said countries with high transmission rates, including Brazil and India, needed to brace for a big battle, saying, “The way out is long and requires a sustained commitment.”
The WHO officials said an advance investigation team was not yet back from China, where the virus originated.
A larger, WHO-led team of Chinese and international experts is planned next to study the origins of the virus in the city of Wuhan, although the timing and composition of that is not yet clear.
Tedros urged mothers to continue breastfeeding even if they had COVID-19, as the benefits “substantially” outweighed the risks of infection.
The WHO head said that while coronavirus was the biggest global health emergency since the early 20th century, the international hunt for a vaccine was also historic.
“There are many vaccines under trial, a couple in the final stage of clinical trials – and there is hope. It does not mean that we will have the vaccine, but at least the speed with which we reached the level we reached now is unprecedented,” he said.
“There are concerns that we may not have a vaccine that may work, or its protection could be for just a few months, not more. But until we finish the clinical trials, we will not know.”
The German government on Monday condemned what it said were “unacceptable” violations of coronavirus restrictions after tens of thousands — most with no masks — took to the streets of Berlin to protest the measures over the weekend.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer said that protesters who failed to wear masks or respect social distancing rules had “exploited their right to demonstrate” and were “in no way justified”.
While the freedom to demonstrate was “important”, the “images we saw this weekend were unacceptable”, said Demmer.
She said the government condemned “not only the massive violations against hygiene regulations and basic protective measures,” but also reported attempts to hinder journalists from reporting and attacks on police.
Around 20,000 people took part in the “day of freedom” demonstration on Saturday, the majority not covering their nose and mouth or respecting Germany’s 1.5-meter (five-foot) social distancing requirement.
The crowd shouted “We are the second wave” as they converged on the Brandenburg Gate, demanding “resistance” and dubbing the pandemic “the biggest conspiracy theory.”
Police said that some 45 officers were injured at the “day of freedom” and other demonstrations.
The number of coronavirus cases has risen in Germany in recent weeks, prompting political leaders to warn against complacency.
“We cannot let up in the fight against the pandemic. It is not over, we are still in the middle of it,” said German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in a video message on Monday.